Joey Gates of Heaven Book 4 by M. Tasia Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Nothing in Joey Tall’s life is for real. Not his name, the background he supplied to his bosses at The Gates, or the energy and good health he exudes. None of it is true. And no one can ever know what’s really going on. Ever. Unpacking his secrets would truly end his life. Insult to injury, the incredibly handsome LAPD officer who’s been hitting on Joey is a dream come true. But no way in hell is he letting a cop into his life. He doesn’t have a death wish, and tempting fate is the last thing Joey’s going to do, no matter how much he yearns for a man he can’t have.
Too many ghosts live inside James Masterson's head, and they weren't the company he sought. Actually, he prefers no one's company, but he finds himself surrounded by overly friendly, meddlesome types while visiting his brother at The Gates in DTLA. Somehow, James becomes the unwelcome subject of Detective Richard Ross's attention, and, before he knows how it happened, James is caught up in Ross's family drama. When a madman tries to kill Ross's sister and her daughter, James's special ops Army training kicks in, and he becomes their hero, something he knows down to his core, he is not. The thing about crazy killers is they never give up, and when the final showdown comes to a head, James knows he'll do anything to keep the family he has found, especially the love of a sexy detective.
The amber liquid burned his throat as he swallowed, exactly the way he liked it. James scanned the crowd, as he’d done dozens of times since he’d arrived. The bar was busy with groups celebrating whatever the latest occasion was, or singles looking to hook up, trolling the crowds hoping to find a happy diversion.
James didn’t fit into either category. He wanted to be left alone to drink in peace and watch storylines play out, in front of him from his corner booth. The intentional deep-set scowl should’ve been enough to keep people away, but there were those men and women who took it as a challenge. Get the big grumpy guy to smile, one point. Laugh, two points. And so on.
James sat in his booth, ignoring the latest make-him-happy applicant until they finally gave up and left. Why was it so hard for people to understand he didn’t want to be social, didn’t want sex, and he sure the hell wasn’t looking for a boyfriend.
Peace. That was what he wanted most of all. Which sort of begged the question, what the hell was he doing in the middle of a noisy bar?
He picked up his glass, drained the remainder of his whiskey, and motioned at the server for another. It had been a month since he’d found his brother, Finn, at the receiving end of a gun their papa was pointing at him and his lover. James had given their crazy bastard father a chance to stand down, but the asshole was beyond reasoning. He was forced to kill his father in the middle of the woods, on a dark and moonless night.
As if that wasn’t enough to get him into the Guilt Olympics, his continued nightmares of what he’d seen through four tours of deployment played like a movie through his mind the moment his lids dropped. It wasn’t enough that he’d been left with a few bullet holes for his
service, but now it appeared that PTSD had moved in. James wasn’t a roommate kind of guy.
“Here you go.” Peggy dropped off his double shot of whiskey. “How you feeling tonight?”
Peggy, one of the owners of Crandall’s Pub, had taken one look at James and decided he was her latest project. The only reason he hadn’t left and found a new watering hole was that the older woman had a huge heart and she got that twinkle in her eye every time she was cooking something up that had nothing to do with a kitchen. Tonight was no different. She patiently waited for him to reply.
“Have you been getting enough sleep?”
“Not in years. The enemy always waits for a moment of weakness.”
“But you’re not in the Army anymore. You need to find a way to deal with it and move on. Have you thought about seeing a therapist?”
Of course it had crossed his mind, but something was holding him back. “I have, and I’m still thinking on it.”
Peggy reached out to cover James’s much larger hand. “Okay, honey. But if you need anything, me and Henry are always here to help.”
“Thank you.” He hoped that’d end the conversation.
He didn’t need to bring any more innocent people into his messed-up world.
She sighed as if she could tell what he was thinking, but accepted his reply with a nod before turning away to take someone else’s order.
James wrapped his hand around the glass to steady himself. He was already on his fourth drink and had no plans on stopping anytime soon. The building where he was staying was only three blocks away. He could stumble that far.
The bell over the front door of the pub rang, causing James look up. He groaned loud and long, not caring if the new arrival heard him or not. Once that crystal blue gaze landed on him, James knew he was screwed.
Why wouldn’t this guy take the hint and leave him alone? Was he a glutton for punishment or plain stupid-stubborn? James didn’t know, but the bastard was headed in this direction with the same damn smile plastered on his puss he always wore. Shit.
His long legs ate up the distance, and without so much as a May I?, he slid into the booth beside James.
“Hey, good looking, you come here often?”
James almost smiled. Almost. Peggy dropped off a black coffee and continued on her way with a knowing look.
“You can stuff that line up your ass, Ross. I’m not in the mood for your shit.”
“Is that any way to talk to your ride home?”
“I’ll walk the three damn blocks, if you don’t mind.”
“I do mind. It’s close to two in the morning and Finn has been trying to reach you for hours. Any particular reason you’re not answering your phone?”
“Ah, yeah. I want to be left alone.”
“Keep this up and you’re going to get your wish.”
“Go to hell, Ross.”
“Already have an express pass. Now finish up your drink so I can get your drunk ass home before your brother calls in the National Guard.”
“How does he even know I’m not at the building? It’s not like he lives there anymore.”
“He and Miguel came over to watch the game with Saint, Max, and you, if your ass had been at home.”
“That’s not my home.”
“Touchy, and don’t care. Let’s go.” Ross swallowed the last of his coffee and stood, waiting for James to join him.
“Whatcha gonna do, arrest me?” James laughed without humor.
Ross reached behind his back and pulled out his handcuffs. “If I have to.” Shit.
James didn’t know if he was pissed off or turned on.
Gates of Heaven Book 2
Finn knew the life he’d found at The Gates was a dream his past would ruin, so when everyone he cares about is threatened, he returns to the streets to keep them safe, especially the man he loves.
Fleeing from his existence as an outcast child in a fanatic cult, Finn Masterson makes his way to Los Angeles, only to find an unforgiving city with little prospects for a teenager with few life skills. After years of living on the streets in DTLA, doing anything and everything required to survive, Finn finds a home, a job, and kindness with Saint Jeffrey, who is renovating a grand old building mere blocks from Skid Row. Finn knows better than to trust a good thing, so when harassing texts and calls culminate in threats to the people he has come to care about—especially a former Marine, Miguel Fernandez—Finn returns to the streets to keep those he loves safe. But one single-minded, stubborn warrior brings Finn back into the fold, and they defeat his last remaining enemy giving them the freedom to pursue their forever.
Finn took a sharp left down the short hallway, through the hub and into his room before shutting and locking the door behind him. He felt like a child pulling a tantrum but his emotions were too raw and he needed time to lock them away. Finn had gotten used to being an afterthought back home, but over the last few months, he’d begun to believe it would be different here. Or maybe that was only a Saint thing.
He threw his bag on the bed on his way to his bathroom. Velcro went ahead and jumped into the tub, waiting for him to turn on the water. Since he’d given her a bath two weeks ago, the cat seemed to have changed her opinion about getting wet and jumped in every time Finn took a shower. After an impatient meow from his roommate, Finn reached down and turned his shower on.
In a few economical movements, Finn discarded his clothing, checked the water temperature and stepped into the warm stream. Velcro sat in her usual spot in the back corner of the tub while he let the warmth soak into his sore muscles. He’d spent most of the day moving stacks of lumber up to the first floor and his body was feeling the strain.
He pushed the power button on his in-shower speaker, flooding the bathroom with the familiar whine of a Fender guitar accompanied by a serious set of drums. Finn loved rock music, from Jimi Hendrix and the Doors to Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, and Rival Sons, he listened to
them all. It helped him to block out the world when he didn’t want to be a part of it.
Finn let the music and water soothe him until he could finally think straight again. Yeah, he’d overreacted. There was no reason for Miguel to tell him any of his plans. Finn knew sometimes he got carried away and became too attached to people. Sure, Miguel was his friend. That didn’t necessarily include knowing what he was doing or where he was going. It didn’t matter that he felt an instant connection to the man. Finn had to get his head on straight.
His anger at being rejected soon turned into embarrassment, and he hoped no one had caught
on to his dramatic exit. At least it’s not as bad as the night I offered myself to Miguel and he refused. God, when would he stop acting like a frightened child? He was a grown-ass man and needed to start acting like one. No wonder Miguel didn’t view him as a potential partner.
Finn stayed in the shower long after Velcro had abandoned him for dryer digs and his fingers had begun pruning. He raised his face up into the stream of water one last time before turning off the taps and the music and exiting the tub. After a quick wipe down, he wrapped the towel around his waist, ran his fingers through his short hair and stepped out into his bedroom.
The high-pitched, less-than-manly scream he let loose upon finding Miguel laying in the middle of the bed, fully clothed, with Velcro purring up a storm on his chest, was horrifying enough. But he had to go one step further by losing hold of his towel, allowing it to fall to the floor and leaving him naked in front of the man of his dreams.
God had to hate him, cause this shit wouldn’t keep happening otherwise. As Miguel looked away, Finn reached for his worn track pants and slid them on.
“What the hell are you doing in my room?” Finn shot out as soon as he was covered. “I know I locked that door.”
“Locks, really? There’s nothing I can’t get through. You should know better than that.”
“Just because you can get through them, doesn’t mean you should. If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you were a creep.”
“Come here,” Miguel beckoned as he opened his large arms wide, and Finn was helpless not to crawl into them. “I’m sorry. That was an asshole move. I should have told you first. And, yeah, I couldn’t leave without making sure you were okay and saying goodbye.”
Finn calmed in Miguel’s strong arms. Wrapped in the warmth and safety of his strength, Finn worried at how this one man could have such a pull over him. One day, Miguel would have someone of his own to hold. How was Finn going to feel then, the day he saw Miguel with someone else in his arms?
He’d known the man for only six months and the thought of Miguel finding someone else struck enough fear into Finn that he began to pull back. Miguel allowed him to put space between them but his arm remained around Finn’s waist. “Easy. What’s got you so spooked?” Dense much? Miguel had to know what Finn was feeling on some level, especially after admitting to being an asshole. “Spooked? Is that what you call it when someone you care about decides to throw out like it was nothing that he was leaving on a mission to fight bad guys and
didn’t know when he’d be back?” Miguel smiled at the term, but Finn pushed on, not succumbing to the handsome smirk. “And then you break into my room when I’m in the shower and have the nerve to ask me why I’m spooked. Seriously?”
Miguel pulled Finn back against the hard wall of his chest. In truth, Finn hadn’t fought that hard. “I’m sorry. You’re so adorable when you get riled up.”
“Adorable? Adorable. I’m a man, not some kid. You could say handsome and adorable, but not just adorable. I have a man card I’m carrying proudly and I don’t need you destroying it.” Miguel’s arm tightened a second before he flipped Finn on to his back and pinned him under the Marine’s much larger body. “You don’t have to remind me you’re all man. I have a pretty good handle on that already.” His eyes were the dark blue of the summer sky during a storm. The intimate position and those effin’ eyes drew Finn in until their lips were only an inch apart. Finn wanted this so bad his body ached for Miguel, but at the last moment the big guy pulled back and lay down back to his original position. He gathered Finn close to his side once again and said, “It’s late. We both need to get some rest.”
“But—” Finn began but was quickly cut off when the frustrating man turned off the lamp on his bedside table.
“Go to sleep, Finn. Big day tomorrow.”
Finn’s heart felt heavy and his throat closed up as he thought about tomorrow. Miguel would leave and there was a chance he might not return. “Please be careful, wherever you’re going.”
Miguel’s arms tightened. “I’ll be back.”
Gates of Heaven Book 1
MOUTH TO MOUTH RESUSCITATION
After the death of their mother, Frank "Saint" Jeffrey knew the only way to protect his younger brother was to strike a deal with their autocratic, cruel, abusive father. In exchange for his brother's freedom to live his life as he wished, Saint promised to follow in his father's footsteps and become a preeminent surgeon in his father's medical practice. When events he never could have predicted took away Saint's ability to perform surgery, the bargain became null and void. With no safety net, and a life without purpose, Saint moved across the country, bought a wreck of a building in DTLA, and hoped while resurrecting the property he'd find a reason to live again. Then Max Connor entered his life and Saint was dragged from the darkness of desolation into the light of love.
Saint wanted to tell Max how sexy he looked when he talked about his work. Hell, how sexy he looked on the construction site. Shit. The man was sex walking.
“You’re smiling. That must mean I’m doing something right.” Max smiled before taking a drink from his beer.
Saint felt his throat go dry as he watched Max swallow, making his Adam’s apple bob. A single drop of sweat chose that moment to slide down his muscled chest and disappear under the collar of his shirt. Saint felt himself getting hard and hoped like hell Max wouldn’t notice.
No such luck. “If you keep looking at me like that, I won’t be responsible for what I do,” Max warned as he placed the glass on the table and shifted closer to Saint.
“Being responsible never seemed to get me anywhere,” Saint replied. “I think it’s past time to be irresponsible for once.” He’d always done his duty, kept his oath to his mother, but now Saint wanted something for himself, someone of his own, if only for the night.
“Do you want to get out of here?” Max asked.
“Definitely.” Saint didn’t even stop to think about it. He wanted Max.
Max pulled out his cell phone, sent a text to Miguel most likely, then stood, holding out his hand. Saint had never been free to openly show affection for any man before now and he was going to hold on to his feelings as tightly as he could.
Max’s grip was firm but gentle, always aware of Saint’s injuries. They walked down the stairs and into the melee of bodies on their way to the front door of the club. One moment Max was right in front of him, the next he was swallowed up by the crowd, leaving Saint standing
alone in a sea of nameless faces. The pounding music and the chaos of undulating bodies caught him off guard. When he’d been holding Max’s hand, none of it had touched him. Now it crashed into Saint and triggered memories. People running, the fear, the screams, and the blood as bullets rained down on his team.
It wasn’t long before the first guy sidled up to Saint’s back and began rubbing his jeancovered crotch suggestively against Saint’s ass, bringing him back to the dance floor. When he turned to tell the idiot to back off, Saint found that the stranger was no longer interested in him and was trying to fend off an angry-looking Max.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you to never touch someone without their permission?” Max’s voice was calm but his tone was deadly. Saint wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever seen those green eyes shine like that before. It could have been caused by the flashing lights, but Saint wasn’t
certain that was the case.
“I didn’t know he was yours,” the handsy man attempted to explain.
Saint wasn’t sure how he felt about being considered Max’s property, but he could roll with it.
“Take your dick far away from us before I remove it from your body.” Then Max released the man so he could disappear back into the wave of bodies.
Max wrapped his arm protectively around Saint and for the first time in his life, Saint allowed someone else to be the strong one, to lead, to handle what the world threw at him. His entire existence had been spent being on alert for dangers and threats to the people he loved.
Protecting others no matter the cost. His hand brushed over the bandages covering the gunshot wounds to his stomach as a reminder of exactly that.
“Are you okay?” Max asked as he pulled Saint closer. “I know you didn’t want anything like that happening tonight. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” Saint could feel those two wrinkles between his eyes scrunch together as he concentrated on Max. “You did nothing wrong.”
“I promised to stay by your side and the first time I screw up, some guy is trying to hump you on the dance floor. You were already unsure of coming out, and it killed me to see that lost look on your face as I was trying to get back to you,” Max explained as he led Saint toward the entrance, never once taking his arm from around Saint’s waist. He’d had no idea what look he wore when his brain zoned out, but “lost” was new and frightening.
M. Tasia is an author who lives in Ontario, Canada. She's a member of the Romance Writers of America and its chapter, the Toronto Romance Writers. Michelle is a dedicated people watcher, lover of romance novels, 80's rock, and happy endings, who grew up with a love of reading. Mother of three wonderful children, wife to one understanding husband and servant to two spoiled furry children who don't seem to realize that they're actually cats.
Michelle writes both contemporary and paranormal romance and believes love should be celebrated. After all, we deserve to have romance, excitement, intrigue and passion in our lives.